Biographers and Memoir Writers for Hire
If you want to hire a biographer or memoir-writer, here are answers to some typically-asked questions. This will help you better understand the process if you are looking to hire a biographer, whether from us or anyone else.
What goes into my biography?
When you hire a biographer, the biography will be written from personal interviews, research and fact-checking. If you like, it can include genealogical research beginning with “the Old Country.” (Note: more research time provides a more meaningful narrative.)1
What will my biography look like?
It is critical that you know ahead of time what you want to hold in your hand at the end of this process. Envision the book, then convey this to the author or publishing company. Often, folks want their memoir to concentrate on their most difficult challenges and how they overcame them. They may want a paperback for retail sales or an heirloom book privately published for family only.2
Where do we start?
Since I first published my website in 1998, and this page in 2012, I see that many others have copied it for their websites. I’m happy to be the person that started the now-popular idea that for a full biography or memoir, you can expect a minimum of 10 hours of interview with the subject of the biography. A biographer will conduct supplemental interviews (with other people that you designate), and will spend additional time writing, conducting research and communicating with you and others you designate about the project.3
What kind of biographer or memoirist do I hire?
In the long run, hiring a biographer with experience in biography and memoir is ultimately the more satisfying experience than hiring a writer whose expertise lies in another field (technical, public relations, media).
Here at Real Life Stories, we strongly recommend that you limit your search to biographers and memoirists who can show you a full book that they have written without help, and furthermore you want to read at least twenty pages of that person’s writing to be sure you like his or her style. Each writer has a different way of putting together words to tell a story. Less talented writers are mechanically arranging words in order to get a chronology down on paper; others are creating a manuscript that artfully weaves together different strands of a person’s life while imparting key information. You may see samples of our biographies here.4
What is the difference between a memoir and a biography?
Many sites now have incorrect info on this. We have been explaining this since 2012; the short definition is that a memoir is “my story, as I choose to tell it,” — regardless of length or topics covered– and a biography is a fully researched, fact-checked manuscript covering that person’s life, put in full context with that period in history. A memoir tells only what the individual knows; a biography tells everything that sets the story in full context, and thus it brings out the full drama of a life.5
What makes a good biography?
A biographer crafts a narrative that is compelling. The writing makes your heart race, or slow down: you react powerfully to what you are reading. If you want a real story that follows the true themes of a person’s life and fully reveals all the excitement and challenge and wondrous workings of a life, then you need a writer who can conduct efficient and in-depth interviews, thorough research and whose writing makes you feel something. This will produce an heirloom biography book that will be treasured for a very long time.6
Can interviews for a biography be conducted remotely?
Interviews are now conducted primarily via online video and telephone, due to our pandemic circumstances. If personal interviews are conducted, our interviewer gets a COVID test, assures the negative results, wears a mask, sits ten feet apart, and observes all reasonable methods to prevent spread of air particles from him/her.7
What other work is involved in biography writing?
Real Life Stories, LLC covers the entire process for you, from interviews to the printed book. We manage photograph scanning, design and printing for the books we produce.8
How is the cost of biography or memoir writing figured?
Time, travel and expenses. We handle all aspects of your book production, from interviews to the moment you hold the beautiful printed book in your hands.
Costs incurred before the author can begin writing the book include travel and lodging for the author to conduct personal interviews, and the subcontracted cost of paying professional transcriptionists to take professionally audiotaped interview files and turn them into Word documents.
I once calculated the time I spent on a biography… and it was nearly four hundred hours. In my case, I prefer to have a full year to work on a manuscript because the longer I live with it, the more time I will put into it and the better it will be. For me, the books are not material goods I produce, but rather heirloom volumes meant to survive 200 or 300 years and tell your story, compellingly, long after you and I are both gone.
Costs incurred after the author has written the manuscript include hiring a professional book designer to graphically design a PDF of the manuscript, followed by the printing costs per book, which vary from $9/ to print a paperback to $200 to print an archive-quality book with 100 color photographs.
Experienced, professional memoirists and biographers are usually negotiable to a point, but let’s face it: if it were easy, you’d do it yourself!9
Can I offer my biography manuscript to a publisher or literary agent?
If you want to offer your manuscript to a publisher or literary agent, I’d suggest contracting with the biographer for interviewing and writing three sample chapters. Then you can proceed further if you are satisfied with the biographer. Most book publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts; they only take manuscripts from literary agents. Most literary agents are not looking for new talent. It is still the case that you have to know someone in the business, and even then, chances are very high that your story, no matter how fascinating it is to you, is not book-worthy for profit.10